ROME — Pope Francis made migrants the centerpiece of his Christmas blessing Wednesday, addressing the topic of immigration a remarkable three times in an 865-word message.
“May the newborn Lord bring light to the people of Africa, where persistent social and political situations often force individuals to migrate, depriving them of a home and family,” the pontiff said to the estimated 55,000 pilgrims and tourists gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.
Next, the pope declared that modern migration is the product of injustice and that migrants often find their efforts impeded by “walls of indifference.”
May the Son of God protect and sustain all those who, due to injustices “are forced to emigrate in the hope of a secure life,” he said in his Urbi et Orbi blessing.
“It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries,” he said, adding:
It is injustice that forces them to ensure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps. It is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference.
Finally, in his closing invocation of the blessings of the Christ Child upon “all the suffering members of our human family,” Francis once again brought up migrants.
“Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized,” he said.
Pope Francis said Saturday that migrants are among the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society, while to God, no one is a “stranger.”
In his yearly Christmas address to the Roman Curia last Saturday, the pope called on the Church to promote the “integral development of the human person.”
This development takes place by “serving those who are most vulnerable and marginalized, particularly those forced to emigrate, who at the present time represent a voice crying in the wilderness of our humanity,” Francis said in an allusion to the biblical figure of Saint John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus.
“The Church is thus called to remind everyone that it is not simply a matter of social or migration questions but of human persons, of our brothers and sisters who today are a symbol of all those discarded by the globalized society,” he said.
The Church “is called to testify that for God no one is a ‘stranger’ or an ‘outcast,’” he continued. “She is called to awaken consciences slumbering in indifference to the reality of the Mediterranean Sea, which has become for many, all too many, a cemetery.”
In his frequent addresses, Pope Francis has made immigration a hallmark of his pontificate, urging nations to open pathways to streamline migration, insisting that it furnishes opportunities for “racial mixing.”
Last Thursday, Pope Francis presided over the installation of a migrant crucifix in the Vatican, on which he had a migrant life jacket placed on the cross in place of the body of Jesus.
“We are facing another death caused by injustice,” Francis said in his address prior to the unveiling of the crucifix. “Yes, because it is injustice that forces many migrants to leave their lands. It is injustice that forces them to cross deserts and suffer abuse and torture in detention camps. It is injustice that rejects them and makes them die at sea.”
“I decided to exhibit this life jacket, ‘crucified’ on this cross, to remind us that we must keep our eyes open, keep our hearts open, to remind everyone of the absolute commitment to save every human life, a moral duty that unites believers and non-believers,” he said.
“I thank the Lord for all those who have decided not to remain indifferent and do their utmost to help the victim, without asking too many questions about how or why the poor half-dead person wound up on their street,” Francis said. “It is not by blocking their boats that the problem is solved.”